Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dandelions and on being a Sensei

Karate lessons can be learned from the strangest moments.

I was working on my knees in my backyard picking dandelion after dandelion out of the ground. As I worked I thought of my recent promotion as a Sensei. I wondered about Mat's statement saying that I had earned such a title ages ago. I shook my head trying to understand what he saw in me that I was having difficulty seeing.

I kept inching up on the lawn. Wearing off the skin on my palm as I put pressure on the tool to remove the weeds. My knees burned with the unaccustomed constant demand. I felt the rest of my body complaining about the push, pull.. push pull that was needed to get each weed out. I said to myself "Gee... I'm a stubborn one. No matter what it takes I'm going to achieve my goal of removing these weeds, aren't I?"

Again my thoughts returned to how this weeding was mirroring my path in karate. No matter how many times I felt the pains of training, I kept fighting to achieve understanding. My knees didn't stop me as I first started training in karate when they swelled up. Neither did any other problem that arose on my path.. I adjusted, and demanded, and continued. I felt the loss of so much. I felt the loss of my first Sensei. I felt the confusion of searching for a new dojo. I never accepted defeat, but continued with a sort of centered oneness that didn't allow for any other outcome in my life than for me to continue striving to learn my Art.

But then.. I can't see myself as such a valuable "Sensei".. I'm so young in the arts. I barely started wearing the shiny black off of my new belt. There are so many people out there far superior to me when it comes to knowledge, skill, and ability. What do I have to offer my students?

Then I stood up and looked back.. and saw what it was that I had to offer them.

My struggles, and efforts to remove the weeds had left a straight area of trampled grass in the lawn. It stood out of the rest of the grass through it's very existence. It was clear, and green, and special. It was made by my perseverance, my long suffering, and hope. It was my whole self being focused on the achievement on one goal. It showed others where to start on their own paths. I remembered that the translation of the word "Sensei" means "Born before".

I thought "Yes.. yes.. I can now accept the title of Sensei."


[Mat] said...

"Life begins the day you start a garden."
- Chinese Proverb
Taken from the Mike E Garofoldo website.

I haven't had the time to put all dandelion out. I'm about 20% through. There are so many!

I've currently passed around... 8h on dandelions. But this year, I'm dedicated to the outside. The two past years have been spent on the inside of the house.

Strangely, I felt that the inside was easier.

Up to here, plumbing has been a breeze. Ceramic tiles, a breeze. woodwork, a breeze. Flooring, a breeze. Electricity? a breeze. It's all like making a puzzle. Quite easy. Soldering? easy, piecy.

But gardening? I have absolutely no clue where to start.

This is really gonna be a challenge. I have started and this next weekend will be spent on making the lawn a greener, dandelion-free-er place.

I'm gonna put some...(translation coming) clovers in there too. Since they have different properties than grass (taking nitrate from ground and air) they don't need as perfect conditions to grow during summer and are tougher too.

So this weekend, the plan is to buy seeds, get some black earth, come back home, get those dandelions out, replace with earth and clovers.

This grass hasn't been taken care of for the last 5 or 6 years. Such is the joy of buying a used house :)

But I swore that next summer, our lawn would look at least 50% better. And in two years, be green. A sweet green. And no chemicals.

""Yes.. yes.. I can now accept the title of Sensei."

Good for you, Senseï!

Will said...

Indeed. The journey is not about skill or talent, or ability, or potential or any of the normally revered personality traits. Rather, it is about character, perseverence, determination, tenacity, endurance. It is that placing of the foot on the path and every intended movement thereafter.

Every year, I get a little older and every year I gain a little more maturity. Becoming Sensei is very much like getting older, you aren't as fast as you once were, you aren't as limber or as agile, but hopefully you are wiser. Sensei isn't being better than the student, but wiser.

A good Sensei is one who, through the way of martial arts and a safe but austere environment, helps guide, nurture and forge the student's character.

supergroup7 said...

Yard work.. I have a love/hate relationship with outside work. I love the scent of fresh cut grass. I enjoy watching the beauty happen when one places one's hand to organize, and support the work of nature.

I wish you much success in your lawn efforts, Mat. I didn't know that one would WANT to place clover in the grass. I always thought that clover would be a weed like dandelions.

Thank you for your supportive words, Mat. They helped me find the Sensei in me.

supergroup7 said...

Will.. your skilled, and articulate comment puts into words all of the insight, impressions, and thoughts that filled me as I looked down at that path in the grass that I had made.

THANK you.

A wise experienced Internet Sensei friend of mine (Sensei Paul) once told me that the real goal of a Sensei is to help the student surpass them. We are to make our students better than ourselves because this makes the future of the Art of Karate stronger. Where will karate be if each succeeding karate ka is less than the one before?